The Curtain Clam

Suzuki Harunobu Japanese

Edo period (1615–1868)

Not on view

The young ladies are at the shore. One is getting out of a chair while the other ties a sash about her hips below her "obi." A subtle tone of carpe diem cleverly embedded in the poem deepens the provacative tinge of this charming scene, one of a series that plays on the theme of types of seashells. The "sudare-gai" is a mollusk that was named for the boiled blinds of reed or thin bamboo slats that are still used in Japan to provide the shade and privacy between the interior space and the outside garden. In poetic convention it is a motif of intrinsic eroticism and has a seasonal association with spring.

In this print, a small "sudare" covers the window of the palalquin that has carried these courtesans to the shore for a spring outing.

Nami kakaru fukiage no hama no
sudaregai nami mo zo
orusu isogi hirowan.

A cool breeze whips the waves onto shore
let's hurry to gather the shells.

The Curtain Clam, Suzuki Harunobu (Japanese, 1725–1770), Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, Japan

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